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Why immigrants are not to blame for poor services

This article is over 11 years, 2 months old
As right wing tabloids and politicians line up to scapegoat migrants as a ‘drain’ on society, Socialist Worker looks at the reality behind the myths
Issue 2344
Looking for work in West London
Looking for work in West London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Politicians claim that thousands of migrants from Romania and Bulgaria are set to come to Britain to claim benefits and use the NHS. 

They describe migrants as a “drain” on resources and try to blame them for poor services.

Socialist Worker argues that every­one should have access to benefits and services, wherever they are from.

But in any case, the politicians are lying.

Anti-immigration campaign group Migrationwatch claims that up to 250,000 migrants from Romania and Bulgaria could arrive in Britain over the next five years. 

It doesn’t give any evidence for this claim. But assuming it is true that’s an average of 50,000 a year.

That’s less than 1 percent of the British population.

As the NHS deals with over one million patients every 36 hours, even if every single migrant went to a surgery or hospital at the same time it would take just 1.8 hours for the service to deal with them. 

Immigration is not a strain on the NHS.

What about existing migrants? Research shows that they don’t use hospitals any more or less than British-born people.

Stories have appeared “revealing” that around a quarter of women giving birth in NHS hospitals were born outside the UK. In 2011 the figure was 25.5 percent.

There is no significant change in the figure—in 2007 it was just under 25 percent.

The vast majority of those giving birth in the NHS, around three quarters, are born in Britain.

Right wing rags use the figures to imply that migrants come to Britain to use NHS services. 

But “born outside the UK” doesn’t necessarily mean recent migrant. 

It includes people who have lived in Britain for years and are British citizens.

Some 12.5 percent of people living in England and Wales were born ­outside the UK.

It isn’t migrants that are draining the NHS. It is the Tories with their underfunding, cuts and privatisation.

If all migrants left Britain tomorrow there would still be a crisis in the health service because the Tories are intent on destroying it.

The myth that migrants come here to live on benefits isn’t true either. 

The Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration looked into this issue in 2009.

It found that some migrants were 60 percent less likely to receive benefits or tax credits than people born in Britain. 

These migrants, from central and eastern European countries, were 58 percent less likely to live in social housing too. 

They paid 30 percent more into public services in taxes than the value of services they used.


Racism makes us weaker

Some politicians make concessions to racists because they claim we must recognise the “concerns” of ordinary people. 

They say talking tough about immigration will undermine the racists’ support.

In reality it does the opposite. It make their arguments seem more credible.

The real reason that bosses and politicians use racism is to divide and weaken working class people. 

Then workers will be less likely to unite against those at the top who are really responsible for the poverty we face.

The real division in society isn’t between workers born in one place and those born elsewhere. 

It is between the rich and poor everywhere—and the gap between them is growing.

We need to reject racist scapegoating and unite against our real enemy. 

Only then can we beat their attacks and win better wages and conditions for all.

Labour Party gets it wrong

Labour leader, Ed Miliband, featured in a party political broadcast last week.

It declared that Labour “got it wrong” over immigration in the past, and that it’s OK to be “concerned” about migration now.

Miliband claimed that too many low skilled workers are allowed to come to Britain.

He said workers from other countries undercut wages and that “rules need to be fair so that local people get a fair crack of the whip.”

This pandering to racism is not new. Labour is often pulled to the right on the issue. 

Its leaders say it has to reflect the “concerns” of the electorate.

Labour’s capitulation stems from its loyalty to the “national interest”, rather than the interests of the working class.

Labour represents the interests of British capitalism and defends a system based on profit and exploitation. 

It has important links to the working class through its relationship with the trade unions.

But it consistently fails to represent those interests when forced to choose between the working class, and those that exploit them.

Fewer migrants claim benefits 

 There are 5.5 million people of working age in Britain claiming benefits.

Of these 371,000 were born outside Britain.

That’s 6.7 percent of the total number of people receiving benefits.

Some 6.6 percent of working age non?UK nationals currently receive state support. 

This compares to 16.6 percent of British nationals.

Small effect on average wages 

 The Migration Observatory, based at the University of Oxford, has undertaken detailed research on the effects of migration on wages and work. 

Researchers there found that, “Empirical research on the labour market effects of immigration in the UK suggests that immigration has relatively small effects on average wages.”

No fast track for housing

Some people claim that migrants come to Britain to get houses and benefits.

Yet migrants are not allowed to claim benefits, including social housing, until they have been in Britain for a year. 

So the idea that people are arriving and getting “fast tracked” into social housing is a lie.

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